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Head of Market Development in Mastercard’s Caribbean Division Jimena Elia looks on as Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds speaks during yesterday’s symposium.

Bank in the box

The Central Bank, local financial institutions and other stakeholders are scheduled to be in meetings today with financial services provider Mastercard as a delegation is in Barbados to explore the possibility of a new payment solution. Several small and micro business persons had the first crack at the visitors yesterday as the Ministry of Tourism hosted a symposium focused on the Bank in a Box technology.

Aimed at getting taxi drivers, vendors, water-sports operators and the like to facilitate cashless transactions in a bid to maximiseon visitor spend, the Bank in the Box solution has been highlighted as one of the missing links to buffering the island’s economy.

During yesterday’s event at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Director of Tourism Development in the Ministry, Dr. Kerry Hall stated that in a time where most travelers were walking with less cash and relying more heavily on credit and debit cards, Barbados needed to embrace the technological advancements and changes of thinking as tourism was a sector that many could benefit from. “We are trying to create a space for the average Barbadian to get their share of the visitor economy. Mastercard came to the island a couple months ago and we actually asked them to come back because we believe that what they are offering falls directly in line with what we want to see for the industry.” she said.

Only in the incubational stage, the initiative could possibly see Barbadian business owners armed with cost-effective and efficient solutions to accept payment through plastic or other options where they would normally accept cash only and Dr. Hall said that she believes it will take tourism to the next level. “I believe that who we have on this stage are people who are going to help us to transform our tourism industry and transform the economy of this nation by broadening the base of tourism revenue earners in this country which is what we really want to see right now as we seek to turn around our ailing economy. And I believe this is a step in the right direction.” she said.

With figures showing 57 million tourists visiting the region each year, Head Presenter Michelle Alvarez, who is responsible for Mastercard’s Market Development Manager in the English-speaking Caribbean, said that the aim was to get Barbados onboard with their ‘Smart Islands’ concept so that they would not be left behind. “We are trying to build resilience in the Caribbean. Here, we are susceptible to natural disasters. We really want to make sure that whenever a natural disaster comes along that you are well-prepared to take care of your business and get back on your feet. If you are not accepting digital payments and you do not have a credit history, it’s going to be very hard for you to go back to a bank and ask for a loan to get your business back on its feet.” she said, noting 40-60% of vendors in Puerto Rico found themselves in problems after Hurricane Maria back in 2017.

Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds was also a part of the intense discussion and said that this was what was needed to empower what he called the most important players in the local economy. “Really and truly this is a dream come true because what I am hoping that we can all agree to before this ends is to recognisethat the technology makes life easier for all small and micro business people in Barbados. It makes life safer for you because you become less dependent on cash and more reliant on the electronic transaction. It connects you to the banking system in a way that enables you to do more developmental stuff because you are a part of the system and most people just operate on the periphery dependingon what type of business you do and it also makes you more competitive and that is really what this economy has to be about. This engagement is the beginning so we can now take with us the entrepreneurial community that really matters – which is the small and micro business people – to the same level of development that the rest of the country already enjoys.” he said. (MP)

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